Over Half of Americans Favor Expanding Medicare Benefits

A new NerdWallet survey found that 53 percent of Americans support increasing Medicare benefits to include vision, hearing and dental care. 54% also support the government working with Medicare to lower prescription drug prices.

NerdWallet commissioned the survey and The Harris Poll conducted an online poll asking more than 2000 adults about their support for Medicare changes.

The idea of negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs covered under Medicare garnered the most support of the options presented — and among the Medicare proposals now being floated in Congress, probably has the best chance of passing.

There is broad support for addressing drug costs

Tricia Neuman is the executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy. She says that there’s bipartisan interest to do something about prescription costs for Medicare beneficiaries. There are many opinions on how to best do this. This is an area where bipartisan consensus seems possible on solutions that would help those with high drug costs.

After drug costs, interest in expanding Medicare coverage to include hearing, dental and vision care was a close second among the options presented in the survey (53%), and 71% of Americans ages 55 and over say they support this change. This is likely because Original Medicare currently covers none of these services.

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Instead, Medicare-eligible consumers must purchase private policies or enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, which frequently offer additional benefits. According to Chartis Group data, 42% of Medicare-eligible beneficiaries will be enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans by 2021.

“Almost everyone I talk to wants dental coverage and what I call eyewear coverage,” says Katy Votava (president and founder of Goodcare), a consulting firm that focuses on the economics and Medicare.

Supporting ‘Medicare For All’

35 percent of Americans support the creation of a national “Medicare For All” health insurance system. This is only a third. Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 are most supportive of this proposal with 51% saying that they support it.

This proposal does not have the support of all. In the KFF’s most recent Health Tracking Poll that asked the question, 71% of respondents said they approved of a government-administered health plan. A Pew Research Center poll in September 2020 showed that only 36% of respondents preferred a single program from the federal government when they were asked about health insurance coverage.

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Low interest could be caused by confusion over what Medicare for All might offer. This is not surprising considering there have been many proposals in Congress.

Carolyn McClanahan M.D. is a certified financial planner who founded Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville. “Many people don’t know what Medicare for All would look.” “Some people believe it would lead to a government takeover.

Lowering Medicare age under consideration

More than 200 bills related to Medicare have been introduced in Congress, including bills that propose different Medicare for All plans. The reintroduced Medicare at 50 Act was introduced in January 2019. It would allow anyone between 50 and 64 to enroll in the Medicare program. According to NerdWallet, 31% of Americans are against this possible change. It is interesting to note that all age groups are more likely than those 65 and older to support this change (34% ages 18-64 compared to 20% ages 65 and above).

Also, there have been proposals to lower the Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55 or 60. The NerdWallet survey found that Americans aren’t enthusiastic about the idea. Less than 25% of respondents said they support lowering Medicare eligibility to 60 (23%), 55 (16%), or 50 (18%).

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Votava states that “a lot of people are satisfied with their own insurance.” “So, you have a lot of people who are satisfied with what they have but are afraid to change.”

You might also find that older adults have had mixed experiences when they join Medicare. Votava states, “If they have a loved one they have been a caregiver for it’s often been a hassle or at the very least a learning curve.”

Public opinion will not necessarily become law

In April, 17 senators wrote to President Joe Biden, asking him to increase Medicare benefits to include vision, hearing and dental care, to enact a cap for out-of-pocket costs under Original Medicare and to negotiate lower drug prices in his American Families Plan. A day later, more than 80 House Democrats wrote a similar letter.

Despite all the campaign talk about lowering Medicare eligibility to 60 years and creating a public option for health insurance, Biden’s spending plan does not include any of the proposed Medicare expansions.

Neuman states that “a large portion of Democratic members of Congress are interested in building Medicare to improve coverage, affordability, and accessibility for people in this age range.” These ideas are popular because they build upon a very popular program. However, their popularity among the public does not necessarily translate into good prospects of enactment by Congress.

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Methodology

The Harris Poll conducted this survey online in the United States for NerdWallet between May 4 and 6, 2021 among 2,035 U.S. adults 18 years old or older. The online survey does not use a probability sample, so it is impossible to estimate the theoretical sampling error.